Are You A Customer Or A Community?

Le Chien A La Mode

A blog review? Or free marketing? And do we care?

When I’m not sewing like a maniac, I work in the business of book publishing. It’s one of many creative fields that faces huge changes in its relationship with customers. Yesterday, I attended a panel talk from lawyers who represent game, film and music industries, as well as Ye Olde Worlde of books.

The most fascinating part of the talk (for me at least – I’m sure other people were geeking out over other details) came from the lawyer who dealt with the gaming industry. He started using the word ‘community’ instead of ‘customer’ – an important shift in vocabulary, I felt.

This made me think a lot about the sewing online community and the businesses embedded therein. Especially when the debate turned to the benefits and dangers of free content, honest or biased online reviews from community members, free marketing and how the world of creative retail is changing. Gone are the days when a customer silently coughed up their money and tugged their forelock in gratitude at a product delivered. Long gone. Customers, communities – call them what you like – now have a strong sense of ownership over the brands they’ve helped create and continue to support.

I walked back to the office thinking of blog sewalongs, pattern reviews, online forums, pattern publishers in my Instagram feed, tantalising free downloads, sponsored goodie bags, giveaways, books published, new subscription services being launched… There was only obvious conclusion I could draw. Sewing strode at the forefront of change lawyers and publishing professionals had just been debating in a room overlooking the River Thames.

This thought gave me cause for huge cheer. Only a few years ago Joe Public would have patted us on the head for holding a needle and thread instead of a briefcase. More fool Joe Public. We’re industry leaders!

Ours is a vigorous, challenging, joyous community. We’re also customers with voices. But, which comes first for you? Are you a member of a community or a customer? Is this something you even consciously think about? And who draws the line in the sand?

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67 Responses to Are You A Customer Or A Community?

  1. Erika says:

    It is funny how you connect this, as it is something I often do when talking to my guy friends (and my boyfriend in particular) about sewing I often reference things happending in the gaming industry. Indy designers? You have ’em in both industries. Perfect pattern parcel? It’s like a humble bundle for sewers – in all ways thinkable. It is really nice how such different fields develop so similar. In the end, they are all creative fields.

  2. Sue Bowdler says:

    I enjoy your blog as you write thoughtfully and do not focus simply on the minutiae of sewing (to which I’m addicted of course). Can blog followers – I guess there’s a name for for them/us – be a community, those of us who never meet? Are we customers? I don’t buy anything from you although I could be said to use a service in a way.
    Calling customers ‘community’ in the way the lawyer from the gaming industry suggested we should sounds like a spot of 1984 practice to me! Putting a gloss on a seedy, money making world. Perhaps it salves the collective conscience of the lawyers and money makers?
    And there it is! Customers? Not really. Community? Maybe.
    But how about Collective? A sense of togetherness without the connotations of either of the other words.
    PS I’m much older than you and most of your followers (the Collective?) and have been sewing for nearly 50 years (I can’t tell you how that hurts to see that in black and white)
    but am still learning and experimenting so please don’t stop sewing or writing!

  3. ooobop! says:

    I think ‘community’ is a very clever word used by all kinds of marketeers. Its broader than ‘customer’. It makes people feel included and wanted. And makes them want to do ‘stuff for free’ (reviews, promotions, mentions and testings) because in return they get the pat on the back, more followers, recognition, higher ranking, a link back … but no fee. Even if you are not doing and getting ‘stuff for free’ you are part of the gang thats communicating and virtually meeting with those that are, so you can still be part of the community. But only community members that part with cash for product can realistically be called customers.

    That’s far too much thinking before work. But thanks for getting those cogs moving, Karen. The sewing community never fails to provoke thought! x

  4. sj kurtz says:

    Sadly, I spent the day watching a video seminar on marketing to ‘creatives’, no, excuse me, ‘quirky creatives’ (nothing brightens a day as much as being reduced to a meme) and how that customer base can be monetized. Now, I am married to and work with a marketing guy, I am familiar with the dark arts of commerce, I have given soul-blackening seminars, but it Just Wore Me Out.

    So I want in on the Collective, too! I shake my seam ripper at the world! I will level up WITH my team in the virtual sewing room!

  5. I think most of the time we are a community. Sure there are sponsored posts and fabric company networks and so on, but as long as these are honestly disclosed I don’t have a problem with it. What I do have a problem with is when the community aspect is so prevalent that it seems to take away the right to criticise or have an opinion, particularly in the case of bloggers turned pattern designers. If you are given the responsibility to pattern test (and a lot of the time that’s the bigger bloggers) you owe it to your readers (who are also a community) to give them an honest review, rather than say nice things because the pattern designer is your friend or a fellow blogger.

    • Beth says:

      This is a very good point. I’ve only ever read positive pattern reviews. No one wants to upset anyone in this community!

      • Dee says:

        I really don’t feel that there are only good reviews out there, in fact I read one just the other day that said they did not like the final dress after completing the testing and it went straight in the pile for charity and they wouldn’t be making it again. I’ve read many blog where people clearly state that they turned down pattern testing because the style wasn’t “them” therefore in my mind everyone who accepts an invitation to pattern test generally likes the style, and the chances of them giving a good review (if they choose!) is a higher percentage. I think the sewing community is just full of nice people who can say they don’t like patterns etc in a constructive way without the need to give a “bad” review.

      • i have seen this recently since it became a topic for discussion on blogs in the past couple of months. previous to that, rarely if at all, and limited to a few bloggers. i’m talking about the quality of the product that you pay for, not whether the style is to the bloggers taste or not. you can make something that is your style and still have a horrible time making it due to notches not matching or poor instructions etc.

  6. Jenny says:

    Interesting!
    Of course we are all both customers as well as community, but for me community definitely comes first. For several reasons- firstly because it’s *through* being a part of this community that I discover so many products. I don’t buy every pattern/ fabric/ book etc that I see although I do collect inspiration from them. Secondly, because I know how irritated I feel when every post I read is sponsored… I want to scream ‘I come here for inspiration not to be sold stuff!!’ Lastly, although sewing obviously involves spending a LOT of money, for me it’s less about the material outcome than it is about the process, which I guess puts more focus on the community slant than consumer. Jumbled thoughts… but another ‘aye’ for the community camp!

    • Ah yes, the process definitely does make a difference. In some ways, that’s why we may be most closely allied with the gaming world. After all, getting through a game can take months of commitment. (So I’m told. Don’t play!) Fascinating debate!

  7. I don’t think I like “community”. On the face of it it seems wholesome and inclusive and happy. However to me it smacks of a cynical marketing ploy, like that used by * insert large fruit based computer company* amongst others, to make sure that we are all part of the clique, buying into the myth that this is a give and take situation whereas in fact we are being given the hard sell. I think that this happens a lot, even in the sewing community. I also agree that since we are in reality consumers that companies (including bloggers turned pattern designers for what are they doing if not selling us stuff?) should toughen up a bit and take it on the chin if they are offering shoddy products. I do like “collective” though as this makes me think of more of a team effort and sounds more inclusive but then I have my extremely grumpy head on this morning as I have been up and travelling to work for almost 3 hours without a cup of tea! Harumpf! xx

    • No cup of tea?! That’s a violation of your basic human rights.

    • Ros says:

      I completely agree. I particularly dislike it when people portray themselves as members of the ‘community’ without making it completely clear that they are in fact businesses using their involvement for commercial interest. This is very common when the lines are blurred between bloggers, commercial pattern testers, pattern writers, fabric designers and so on. I would like to see a stronger critical dynamic among bloggers who accept patterns, books, fabric etc. for review. I often feel as though people are just shilling for their friends when they’re part of blog tours etc.

  8. I find this discussion quite intriguing in a general way since I’m of an age to remember when the customer was always right, even when the customer was plainly not right at all (and I’ve been on both sides of the counter, most literally); and I have recently made several white-hot speeches about the almost absolute lack of customer service to be found these days. This leads me to wonder if the phenomenon you’re discussing pertains more to online services than physical, IRL activities.

    I’m not keen on the notion of community replacing customer, though I don’t mind being part of a community. But it strikes me that, as a community, we are frequently customers so, and this is just my opinion, it’s quite muddling to transfer the terms or use them interchangeably.

  9. Well, I used to work in marketing and media and all that jazz and “community” became another word for “herd of customers singing the same happy song and defending the brand like fangirlzzzz” long ago. Meh.

    I have been lurking blogs and forums for a while, always to shy to comment, and my view is that it all started as a community, a real, supportive one, but now we have more and more sewists making a living as full time bloggers/pattern makers/writers and milking that community for every inch of fabric and affiliate links that its worth.

    Don’t take me wrong. I still love certain websites and sharing my projects – I am a very lonely sewist – and gathering inspiration. I also admire all of those who dare to build a bussines in this economy. I just have the feeling that I am being sold something or the other anywhere and everywhere I go.

    But this might just be the product of me pulling an allnighter to meet a deadline. Damn deadlines…

  10. Shabajo says:

    I think you’ve hit on a really interesting discussion point and I think the lines are quite blurry between customer, collective and community.

    Being a customer implies some kind of commercial transaction, and even if I am buying from someone who’s blog I have followed, my interaction with that person / micro-business is purely transactional/financial – I’m buying a product from someone who is selling it. The community element only exists if there is a personal interaction and some sense of belonging and identity – which I think is pretty strong in the online world of sewing! There is definitely something along the lines of a “collective” around pattern testing, etc – that’s more “collective” than “community” because it is part of a process of developing a product to sell (plus gives free marketing as is promoted / blogged by others influential within the collective).

    My experiences of the online sewing world is that the lines are more blurred – yes sometimes it is a little too insular and self-perpetuating (that’s not the word I mean, but I really can’t think what it is!), but it’s got a combination of community and collective that bigger businesses and industry will not be able to recreate!

  11. I’m a sewist AND a gamer (AND I work in publishing too!) and I have to admit, I feel more uncomfortable with the term ‘community’ relating to sewing than I do when it relates to gaming.

    I think this is because in the gaming world we all KNOW that we’re being sold something, and we’re more than happy to give honest reviews of games, even when they’re made by our favourite developers, and we’re certainly not afraid of speaking our minds (ugh, don’t get me started on #gamergate!).

    Unfortunately, I feel that in the sewing ‘community’ we’re most definitely ‘consumers’ being given the hard sell a lot of the time. However, unlike gamers, the majority of us don’t feel that we’re able to freely express our opinions regarding the products we’re being sold for fear of being castigated for being ‘mean’ should our comments not be 100% positive. Lately, I seem to be reading a lot of posts about ‘negative comments’ and a lot of people seem to be told ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’. Whilst I would NEVER condone being cruel, or making personal, upsetting comments, I DO feel that there should be nothing wrong in giving your honest opinion/feedback with regards to services and products provided by a business. The term ‘community’ to me implies a sense that we are all ‘in’ this together, where our comments, opinions and feedback matter – I’m not sure I would say that is true of the sewing blog world as it stands…

    Hmm… that sounded a lot more negative than I meant it to be! I definitely derive a lot of pleasure from sewing blogs, so I don’t want to seem too negative, but I don’t think it would be a bad thing for us to feel more encouraged and free to voice our opinions (POLITELY) where it pertains to a business/product.

    • You don’t sound negative at all. You sound considered and eloquent and it’s great to hear your perspective.

    • oddlyended says:

      You have articulated exactly what I feel is wrong on the Internet in general. Discussion either devolves into a nasty, personal flame war or everything must be sugar and spice. We are forgetting how to discuss a difference of opinion politely, and how to give/receive honest critiques without insulting/being insulted. Thank you.

      • alexandracuckoo says:

        Oh good! I’m so glad I’m not the only one that feels this way! I really enjoy being part of the sewing ‘collective’ and I think that is part of the reason why I want it to be even better!

    • lisa g says:

      yes to this! i haven’t had much time for sewing/blogging over the last month, but i’ve done a lot of thinking along these same lines. well said!

    • puu says:

      i totally think this is a model of what a constructive critique/comment could be, and yet i cannot help but ask – which is more appropriate, to leave that comment in a comments field, or to attempt to reach out directly to the creator/seller/designer with whom you are deailing? i’m honestly quite torn on this issue and appreciate the honesty of your thoughts.

      • Suzanne says:

        I don’t think one is more appropriate than another. If the designer sent you something for pattern testing then your feedback has to go to them. But once its in wide release, then your feedback is for the masses, and you have an obligation to only give feedback on the publicly released product not the crappy 1st edition draft, since the whole point of this exercise was to get feedback to make a superior product to the one you sent out and it would be unfair that to critique the first draft unless no changes were made in that regard. As a customer with no affiliation then you can either post publicly, as the public production of that product has invited public comment and your public comment could help others making consumer decisions, or you can choose to give your feedback directly to the designer, or both.

      • i think it depends on the problem. if it is with something you have bought, you probably would raise it with the seller before making it public to see if it can be sorted out. if you have been asked to test/ blog/ advertise something, then it should be your genuine opinion/ experience, even if it is negative. if it’s a comment on a blog post, then the blog post is public so why wouldn’t the comment be? surely that’s the point of a blog?

      • puu says:

        you’re completely right, of course – but a blogger (not someone who is a pattern designer, etc, but just regular chica blogger) – i don’t know. i personally tend to go for the “nothing nice to say, don’t say it” route on personal blogs. not saying that is the right choice or the only choice, just saying it’s something i worry about. as @oddlyended said, so often things get more personal than might be expected even on the most constructive comment. what do you think?

      • puu says:

        and obviously if the blogger is looking for feedback on fit/color/construction/style i have no qualms, because, like you said, that is the point.

      • oddlyended says:

        If I have a real problem with a product, I contact the seller directly. If a blogger asks for an opinion, I will reply in the comments IF I feel I have a genuine, relevant opinion. And for personal bloggers, if I have a critique I will try to include a positive remark.

    • Suzanne says:

      I also agree with what your are saying. The gaming community makes GOMI sound kind. And I would also like to find a middle ground between the 100% positive and complete tear down. But I absolutely think that I am both part of the sewing community and a customer. I think its perfectly obvious when I am being marketed to and take that blog post with a grain of salt. I rely heavily on unaffiliated blogs (meaning they aren’t part of the pat on the back fangirl community) like this one and Pattern Review. And I know I’m part of a community because I see a lot of people going out of their way to help others for no good reason except they want to help that person. I find the community very kind to beginning/intermediate sewers like myself, and the time they have taken out of their day to help me figure things out was very encouraging to me.

    • Rachel says:

      This comment resonates with me as well (and like others, I didn’t think it came across as being negative either). This whole idea of ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’ is fine in certain situations, but completely unhelpful when something that is being critiqued could be improved, *especially* if that critique was requested. End product is better for clients and therefore the commodity value increases (so better for the developer). I have a feeling that I will be returning to this post to read over the new comments – thanks again Karen!

  12. This such an interesting post. I’ve felt for a long time that we are a community, chatting away with “penpals” around the world when social ties can be so frayed. I was excited to see that a free pattern of mine was downloaded, sewn, and blogged about by one of my online “pals” in the Netherlands (the Foxglove and Thimbles blog)! Crafting has long been an escape from daily cares for women, and I think the online sewing community is just continuing that tradition.

  13. Kerry says:

    Interesting post Karen, and I enjoyed reading the comments too. I think community is a good word to describe the online sewing world. It doesn’t mean we have to like and/or praise everything that the community contains. In fact it is important that people have a space to voice when there are things that the don’t like because without that outlet, a community won’t work.

  14. carly927 says:

    I feel like there’s a difference between the sewing community, which I’d argue is a real community, because of the sheer volume of patterns. For instance, if you’re in the Taylor Swift fan community, you bought her album when it came out last week. She releases an album once every two or three years, and even without any concerts or merch or whatever, I’d say that getting the album is a bare minimum for being in the fan community. If you’re a Marvel fan, no matter which comics you read (or if you read them at all), you see the two movies a year they release (this year it was Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor 2: The Dark World). If you’re the marketer for those things, you know that every one in your fan community is going to be a customer of those items, pretty much no matter what. In sewing, two people could easily purchase and sew two or three items a month and easily have no overlap.

  15. carly927 says:

    I feel like there’s a difference between the sewing community, which I’d argue is a real community, because of the sheer volume of patterns. For instance, if you’re in the Taylor Swift fan community, you bought her album when it came out last week. She releases an album once every two or three years, and even without any concerts or merch or whatever, I’d say that getting the album is a bare minimum for being in the fan community. If you’re a Marvel fan, no matter which comics you read (or if you read them at all), you see the two movies a year they release (this year it was Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor 2: The Dark World). If you’re the marketer for those things, you know that every one in your fan community is going to be a customer of those items, pretty much no matter what. In sewing, two people could easily purchase and sew two or three items a month and easily have no overlap.

  16. Carolyn says:

    I agree with other commenters: we are definitely both customers and members of a community. Every human being is a consumer of various products (food, housing, leisure products and services), so we are all customers of various markets. Being part of a community doesn’t necessarily require being a customer, although in our case, we certainly are customers of fabric shops and pattern designers.

    I love that the sewing industry is growing, and that more and more products are available for us to browse and perhaps purchase. Of course, marketing through blogs is great publicity for these new products. However, I think there is a fine line between promoting a new product to your customer base and shoving it down their throats. Some companies are more guilty of this than others, and I think there are a lot of growing pains in the industry right now. Hopefully a better balance will be achieved in the future.

    Just my personal opinion as a customer and community member. 🙂

  17. Rosie says:

    This is really interesting. I was remarking (/exclaiming!) only this morning about how a pattern designer had liked my version of her dress on Instagram and now encouraging it was. I for one can’t think of any other industry where those at the top and bottom of the food chain, so to speak, are so connected. I definitely feel a part of a community even though I don’t have a huge online presence and my, what a lovely community to be a part of!

  18. Rachel says:

    The thing that I find most interesting is the seemingly inherent assumption behind a lot of these discussions that this is the only type of marketing that is taking place and that it has a 100% success rate. To me, these are pretty much the antithesis of inspiration as I sew out of a desire to suit my style and to have something different. I appreciate I might be in the minority, but this stance doesn’t seem to get discussed much at all. It’s not that I automatically delete all sew-alongs and sponsored posts, but a lot of them are deleted. So that type of marketing has a negative effect on people like me (if there are others, lol). It’s obviously working though, so kudos where it’s due.
    On the subject of terminology, I would vote for community, on the basis that we are a group of people that share an interest (crafting/sewing), but I don’t know that we are a collective; but that might be because my brain defaults to using that term in relation to co-operative enterprises).

    Thanks for the brain exercise! Who needs Countdown/University Challenge when there is sewing blogs? 😉 Rachel

  19. Helena says:

    I feel that the online sewing world is a community, very helpful, but at times too saccharine. However, the second someone tries to sell me stuff I turn into a potential costumer, and if I buy something I’m a customer. And as a paying customer I can talk in which way I please about the product I bought (I would never be intentionally mean, but if I’m displeased I may say so). I feel no community obligation towards people who want to make money of me, it’s their job to prove to me why I should buy their products, I will not buy anything just for a sense of community.

    I hope that this doesn’t sound too harsh, but I treat bloggers come designers (sellers) as any other business, regardless of community.

  20. I love the sewing community. I’ve made good friends thanks to it. However, I find it hypocritical of people who run bona fide businesses who pose as just another member of the sewing community. Let’s get real; they’re in it to make money. From pattern companies to profit-making forums, they act like they’re all one big happy family, when in fact it’s sellers and consumers. Don’t pretend to be a buddy when you have fiduciary and service obligations to your customers. Be a business and act like a business. Do that and the community will take good care of you.

    • A lot of your thoughts resonate with me. I slightly cringe when a sewing business says how lucky they feel to be part of such a great community. Well, yes… But there are layers. For people who genuinely started as hobby bloggers, whose blog has turned into a business … are they meant to just turn off that community and creative tap? That feels sad. I think that a huge level of emotional intelligence and business savvy is needed to balance the twin demands of creative engagement with others and running an online business. Tricky!

      • hab says:

        Hello, I have been reading and enjoying your blog for some time, but not commented before!

        I was at a conference yesterday, in which the issue of members/supporters of a particular community, selling a product targeted at that community, for personal gain, was brought up. It was made very clear that this was a conflict of interest and could have serious consequences, including removal from that community.

        As an avid blog reader, I would like to see much greater separation between business and personal blogs. Members of the sewing community who have now developed a business? Brilliant! Maintain the personal blog, showing their interest and what they are working on. Include a link to their business blog, with details of their patterns and workshops, clearly signposted as such.

        Separating the two in this way might also help to separate the personal from the professional on an emotional level.

      • oddlyended says:

        I rather like @hab’s comment about separate blogs for business and personal. Business bloggers need to be careful about mixing too much of their personal life into their business life. A few years back I watched a formerly successful small, online business go down in flames because the owner wanted to feel her customers were friends. She had a blog and forums, and I liked the product but felt I knew way too much about her family. When a “friend” became dissatisfied with a purchase, the forums disintegrated into the most vicious flaming, trolling war I’ve ever witnessed. She closed her business when she started receiving death threats and the stalkers came out, targeting her and her family. It was horrible. Should I ever develop a business, it will probably have its own site. My personal blog might link to it, but the business site would not link to the personal one.

      • Ros says:

        I have been impressed by the way that Sally from Charity Shop Chic did that. There was one post on her original blog to announce the business and give links. Since then, the posts have been exactly as before – charity shop refashions. Maybe a little less frequent, but that’s fine with me. All the other stuff – sew alongs of her patterns etc has happened on the business website, not the original blog.

  21. Michelle says:

    This is a very interesting topic for discussion. I’ve really enjoyed reading the comments under this post. Lots of food for thought.

    There is definitely some level of psychology at play with the concept of “community” in the sewing world, especially when it comes to independent pattern companies. It’s a strange thing to feel like I’m being sold something every time I read a post. I’ve been a member of numerous other online hobby communities wherein the main objective of the community is interaction among a group of like-minded persons. There has always been a level of feedback and I would seek recommendations on products, but it wasn’t force-fed to me in the way I feel patterns, especially those from independent pattern companies, are.

    I’m not sure how other people react to this sort of constant inundation, but my personal response is to buy far FEWER of the patterns that I see being promoted. It’s a knee jerk reaction for me. Often I skip right over those posts in my feed. Clearly, I’m in the minority, or it wouldn’t be such a rampant phenomenon.

  22. Robin says:

    Interesting, though I can’t say I thought of sewing as being at the forefront of this type of marketing. Before the current wave of monetised sewing blogs, there were DIY /Home Decorating bloggers who cashed in big by presenting themselves as “friends” while making $$$ from sponsored content, affiliate links, book deals, etc. When Young House Love closed their blog, the story made the major newspapers. They had more hits in a day than most sewing blogs get in a year.

  23. Almond Rock says:

    It’s an interesting thought but switching to community seems flawed to me. You’re no longer talking about actual customers but instead potential customers who exist within a target pool.

    That’s fine if you don’t differentiate in your approach between the two groups but within my business we make publishing promises to our existing subscribers, we have service agreements and quality levels to maintain. Seeking out and enticing new customers is a secondary activity wit it’s own challenges and methods. Not everyone in the legal community (and I hate using that word instead of industry) are going to subscribe to all our booksand products, it would be pointless to target the entire community in the same way sewing seems to be marketing itself.

    Perhaps it works for some publishing or marketing areas better than others. Do you think it’s because it’s targeting non-professional markets like sewing and gaming? Or pehaps its because they’re areas that are predominantly peer driven with clear social aspects?

    It’s clever from a psychological perspective though, I’ll give them that!

  24. maddie says:

    I think in terms of community one hundred percent and that’s because when I think/talk to my readers as if they were customers, I feel like I’m belittling them. Like I’m above them and they’re below me, and that’s not the case. There are way too many sewers out there that are better than me and I everyone who comes to my blog to be on the same level. We’re all learning from each other.

  25. Marsha says:

    When I’m reading a blog that has monetized, I’m a customer. My money is the target; I trust what I’m being told then about as much as I trust advertising copy, because that’s what it is. So many blogs push “Indy” patterns and sometimes it seems as if every blog in my feed is making the same thing. Frankly, it’s boring and off-putting. (It also irritates me that the indy patterns have cutesy names instead of numbers, but then again, I’m a cranky old woman.) Why should I buy a $12-$20 pattern when I can pick up a very similar one put out by the Big 4 for a buck or two?

    On the community question, I don’t consider people I don’t know IRL as being part of a community with me. I belong to various communities–my physical neighborhood, my church, shared interest groups, etc. Although I might like certain bloggers’ online personalities, I don’t really know them or what they’re really like. If I become disinterested in a blog, I simply drop it from my feed. People in my real communities aren’t so easy to drop!

  26. Patrice says:

    Just reading through these comments, I recognize names that I often see on other blogs; that in itself makes me feel like part of a community. And I’m a customer when I buy something. But “collective”—sounds like the Borg, or something from the Cultural Revolution. How about just saying “everyone out there in sewing land”, or “residents of sewingtown”?

  27. Philippa says:

    I like to think I’m part of a community, sharing ideas, tips and encouragement. But there has definitely been an increase in being sold to over the last few years (mostly books and patterns). Sometimes I become irritated by this, but another part of me does like to see what the ‘latest’ item is. I like reviews which are written by people that haven’t been given the item for free best as I think they will be more honest, and I sometimes write them myself. I don’t have to buy and I don’t have to read – so I guess I pick the bits I like!

  28. smittenness says:

    There’s a lot of this thinking going on lately and I’m glad to see it discussed openly (not just on GOMI) Sewlittletimeblog’s and Stitchwenchrules’ comments really resonate with with me especially so I thought I’d chime in. If money is changing hands, we in customer territory, Blogging is an oddity though and I’m going to refer to sponsored posts, paid for reviews etc. for my next comments, As a reader of this content, I’m not paying for any of it and if it’s transparent, I don’t consider myself a customer. It’s nice to read free content about something I love. But I wouldn’t consider that part of a community. To be honest though, most sponsored content is identified as such and I appreciate that transparency.

  29. Although I definitely see more bloggers becoming sewing “industry” professionals, it doesn’t strike me as a negative thing, I’m really happy for them! I think of the online sewing world as a community, like a real community, in which some members are providing services to others as well as being friends. It may sometimes be awkward, but it’s the same way in real life, especially in a small town like the one I live in. To me it usually seems clear what is professional content on a blog (check out my new pattern) and what is personal (I sewed this unrelated garment). Although the lines are not always so defined, I can still tell what is genuine writing flowing from someone’s heart and brain, and what is useful information, and what is neither (blogs I won’t follow).
    As our online world grows and matures, it’s inevitable that some things will change. Some bloggers will move on to other things, and some will discover they can make money doing what they are inspired to do (which I personally think is fantastic). Our job is to do what we can to maintain a sense, and a fact, of a real community (not a marketing one) where people share their honest thoughts and make real connections.

  30. mlm247 says:

    There is a HUGE difference between a customer and a community. I read this blog and am a member of that blog-reading community. I am not a customer. Customers PAY for services. The speaker was a fraud and it appears that quite a few people have been sucked in by his scam. Think for yourself. Just because somebody says something it does not mean it is true, real or that you have to do the same.

  31. Bunny says:

    There will always be communities, communities of sewists, worshippers, vegans, politicos, you name it. But the current use of the word in regards to any internet group that also sells a product is way off base in my opinion. To use the word community in marketing a product is simply “spin”, nothing more, nothing less. Bloggers are being “spun” to with marketing that has convinced responsible, caring members of a community that it is impolite to comment on product , presentation, quality and customer service. When an individual is making money from anything sold, they are in business and only masquerading as a “blogger”, IMO. I also agree with the previous poster who suggested that blogs should be blogs and if a blogger is in business they should have a separate business website you can link to from the blog. But by removing one’s business from a blog to a professional website you lose the unwritten rules of the blogging community, “if you can’t say anything nice…………..” which totally protects the less skilled among the community. I would imagine that could be pretty scary for someone just getting their feet wet in business but I predict the marketplace will eventually force this to happen on it’s own.

  32. Marie Donnelly says:

    Such an interesting conversation! I’m afraid I’m with the “community” folks and while I appreciate those who dislike the fact that “community” has become part of marketing-speak, I say, “Take it back!” They don’t own the word. When we think of our own communities, aren’t there butchers, grocers, florists who are all a part of your community? Yes, they’re engaged in commerce, but they’re also providing a service. They care about the state of the high street. They want it to be safe and clean, just like we do. We are not required to use their services; we choose to.

    Thank you for starting this. I really enjoy your blog.

  33. Oh my goodness, that dog in the sweater and beret is unbelievably adorable! And I really like the idea of forming and being a part of crafting/creating communities, rather than just being pandered to as a customer. It feels more equal and honest.

  34. Janet says:

    Such an interesting discussion going on here.

    I used to work as an online ‘community manager’ for a major brand. Because the brand had set up the community pages, and gone out to recruit followers with giveaways it always felt quite false and it was hard to get people to contribute anything.

    By contrast, the world of sewing bloggers and their readers does feel like a community to me. Unlike some online groups, there’s not much in the way of trolling – most people are supportive of others. I really like reading posts and taking part – especially as it’s not something that many of my existing friends are interested in.

    As others have said, I worry that sometimes people are reluctant to give constructive criticism of new products that are put out by their online friends.

    And what drives me to unfollow a blog is when almost every post becomes a sales pitch – look at MY pattern, MY book, MY workshop, MY media appearance. Sure, it might be news, but it’s often not very interesting. Some bloggers forget how it was that they grew their audiences and begin to treat their readers just as customers and not as a community.

  35. ebonyh says:

    Great post! I’ve also been thinking a lot about the booming sewing community + industry and how much of an impact web & social forums have had. Some good food for thought here.

  36. symondezyn says:

    I’ve been honestly confused about why people are so offended by people making money on their blogs. To me it’s a way for the sewing community to have more options – and when has that ever been a bad thing? I don’t HAVE to buy anything, and I don’t HAVE to read the blogs about things that don’t pertain to me, but if someone I respect in the community produces a product I’m interested in, of course I am happy to support them – just as I would a friend or a small business in my own town 🙂

    I think when peer becomes business, it changes the dynamic between “business and consumer” by making the business more approachable, and giving the consumer a bigger voice. We’ve already seen bigger companies following suit by engaging more with the community and responding to feedback – I think this can be a very good thing, as long as the businesses don’t compromise their own creative integrity trying to please everyone (that never works! ^_^)

    Certainly, I’ve noticed that there’s a tendency for pattern testers/bloggers to be “nice” rather than post negative reviews, but I think that’s a learning curve and we’ll all just get over it in time – not everyone is afraid of being honest, and honesty catches on 🙂

    • Bunny says:

      “I’ve been honestly confused about why people are so offended by people making money on their blogs.”
      I have no problem with people making money with their blogs. More power to them. What I do have a problem with is selling inferior product. Just yesterday I read one of these selling blogs, a quite popular one, with incredible misinformation about fabrics. When called on it by several, the post was withdrawn, as it should have been. When you don’t know basic fabric and sewing information don’t expect me to believe that you are selling me a quality product. And surely don’t expect me to buy. Even more, don’t expect me to not warn my sewing friends of the blogs inferiority of product and tutorials. Oy, what stands for tutorials on some of these blogs!

      Those with blogs with quality garments made that fit properly, that sell patterns and give knowledgeable tutorials, I hope they make loads of money. They deserve to. The others, well, business is tough because you are now not just a blog and are open to critique like any other business. I don’t owe you any sweetness because you are blogging any more than I owe my butcher kudos for selling me bad meat.

  37. This is such an interesting comment thread. I feel that the online world of people that sew, sharing what they’ve made is a community. I think I feel this because sewing clothes makes you a little ‘weird.’ In my real, non-internet life, I know less than a handful of enthusiastic clothes-makers. Online, I am in touch with hundreds of you crazy, wonderful beings! You are my collective! Though I’ve had the sewing bug for a long time I’m a bit of a late comer to the online sewing world and still discovering more blogs all the time. I do find it wonderful that I can exchange a word or two with my fellow humans who have this same strange urge to make clothes and that makes me feel part of a community. I get extra excited when I’m swapping sewing enthusiasms with someone who is on the other side of an ocean from me!

    I like to see what sewing pattern designers have created, whether they are huge companies or enthusiastic individuals, though I must say I always scroll past sew-along posts as they are very boring if you’re not taking part! And sometimes they go on for pages and pages! Aaaaaaaargh!

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